Photographs courtesy amlgmatd

the sunrise oculus at the deering estate

Started in 2014, Amlgmatd is the multidisciplinary design-studio brainchild of artists Natalie Zlamalova and Laz Ojalde. Based out of Miami Beach, the studio has a range of practices including furniture, sculpture, painting and architecture. This year they completed a public art piece constructed at the Deering Estate for the estate's annual Festival of the Arts. Titled the Sunrise Oculus, the concept of the project was to frame the location of the rising sun. 

The latest project from the studio is also a product – an indoor/outdoor partially stackable sitting stool, handmade from aluminum tube and vintage polypropylene webbing. Named Webstr, they are limited edition, stain resistant, UV color stable and take four weeks to make. They have also become widely popular after debuting at this year's New York's ICFF, a high end luxury furniture fair that attracts people from around the world, with the support of Miami gallerist Karina Rasmussen and her gallery Design Sublime. The stools have also made appearances at design showcases here in Miami including Our House Miami at The Brillhart House. 

We spoke with the couple about their work, as individuals and as partners, the influence of South Florida and Webstr. 

How did you start working together? 
Nat: We first met while we were both resident artists at ArtCenter South Florida (ACSF), and after getting to know each other on a more personal level we decided to try to start collaborating on a more professional level, (wink wink).
Laz: I spied on her when she started to move into her studio at the ArtCenter and immediately felt a connection to the work and her processes. The opportunity arose to officially introduce myself when I noticed her having trouble carrying panels and other things up the staircase just outside of my studio. I, being the opportunist, jumped to the rescue and swept her off her feet, literally, before she and all her packages took a tumble. Who knew that would be the beginning of an amazing friendship/loveship and partnership in work and life.
Nat: I don't know about the tumble and the sweeping off the feet, but I definitely got talked into this whole thing, blind to the consequences... (laughing).

What’s the story behind the name Amlgmatd?
Laz: I suggested the name after seeing it in an old black&white cartoon from the thirties. What better word to express what we were trying to define with our newly established collaborative studio. The word was perfect, slightly retro and unused. Natalie reworked the spelling, modernized it and boom... our studio had its name. And we had our identity.
Nat: We are amalgamated - AMLgMATD - united. Not only in chemistry terms (more winks), but also by what we both bring to the table. We come from two different backgrounds - Laz studied industrial product design and I studied graphic design and then focused on fine art during my residency. When we combine our skills and aesthetics, we produce interesting work, I think.

Your latest project, WEBSTR has a distinct Florida/Beach feeling, does South Florida influence your work?
Laz: Yes.
Nat: My turn, okay. South Florida does have its part in our work and it certainly did influence the making of the WEBSTR. We wanted to do a contemporary take on an old classic, using original materials. It was Laz's love for those old lawn chairs present in every neighborhood and yard that sparked the idea, and the local climate that contributed to the stool being used both inside and out. The never-ending summers on the Beach and the fusion of indoor/outdoor spaces in South Florida were definitely other factors.
Laz: Who doesn't own a folding lawn chair in Miami? Or at least know of someone who does. It's a South Florida staple. Every bit of WEBSTR speaks of its origins. We chose bright boldly colored vintage webbing because it reflects the colors and vibe we encounter on a daily basis. We even chose to call each individual color combination after a local historical person, place or thing as an homage to the place it was born..  So yes, it was born in Miami, speaks of our lifestyle and plays in its sun.

It seems that this year you have focused on furniture-type works, is this a new direction for the studio?
Nat: We have many directions, our projects are based on what comes our way and/or strikes our fancy. But funny enough, there is actually at least one more furniture project in the near future, the IGNIS sling chair is in its final stages, so stay tuned!
Laz: Yes & no. I guess I'm to blame for our current dive into functional objects. I'm a bit function driven so when we were exploring new ideas and researching materials, we hit upon the idea of making furniture that reflected where we live. The WEBSTR stools and the soon to be completed IGNIS sling chairs are the byproduct of this research. 

Laz you’ve said that the work focuses on volume, silhouettes, sustainability and the passing of time – how did this come about?
Laz: That sounds familiar... I embrace sustainability because it's the right thing to do. The waste and excess that I come across on a daily basis is ridiculous and shameful. So much good reusable material is earmarked for landfill when a little creativity can save it and give it a whole new second life. I started down this road of designing using recycled/up-cycled materials three years ago when a client's budget determined that I had to be creative with materials to complete his restaurant space and meet his budget.

Well, out of that restriction I developed the Stormy Weather lamp collection constructed from up-cycled vegetable cans, and the Bale "Pepe" Benches made from compressed used clothing. Since then, AMLgMATD has used recycled pallets in a lot of our collaborative work and we are currently sourcing vintage webbing for our WEBSTR stools. The passing of time phrase refers to my love of clocks and all things mechanical. The tick tock, wiz bang sounds of mechanisms and sprockets and their repetitive movements have always thrilled me to the bone. 

Natalie your paintings have a recurring theme of being very linear, how did this evolve?
Nat: As far as I remember, I started using lines many years ago. It began with mid-lecture doodles in about 9th grade back in Prague that, looking at it now, could be considered somewhat of an automatic drawing, to something that bears more thought-out constructed meaning.The lines in my recent paintings are the conscience of a human being. The whole series of the works with the ink wash background and the overlaying lines represents the hypnagogic state - the very fine line between sleeping (the illogical, uncontrolled and organic) and being awake (the logical, constructed and geometric) - when dreams are the easiest to remember and can be used as a decision making process. I actually developed a whole system of using this borderline state to make design choices using external stimuli that were then projected into the approaching dreams, and having my brain make its own decisions. Anyhow, in these works, the ink depicts the cloudy, dreamy state of the coming sleep, but there is still a presence of the logical, thinking part of the human represented by the lines, and the tension and unity between those two. Interestingly enough, when I construct all my lines by hand, I get into this meditative state, and the geometric lines now turn into its own kind of automatic drawing. Seems like I made the full circle. Out of lines! I must sound like a lunatic, haha.
Laz: Yes you do.

What other projects do you have upcoming?
Nat: Actually, your question might've sparked the idea for our next project! Let's just say, I have been wanting to make a book for a while.
Laz: Ditto. But for now fulfilling orders and making our current clients happy is our number one concern. And lunch. 

Let's talk about Miami specifically, what do you think is the quintessential Miami souvenir?
Nat: OMG, definitely the pink plastic flamingo for me!
Laz: A red lobster, three alarm fire suntan. 

Do you have a hidden gem? Like a restaurant, or a shop?  
Both: Shorty's BBQ and Robert Is Here!

Do either of you have a favorite Miami Neighborhood?
Nat: I do love where I live, so South Beach for me.
Laz: Opa-Locka. If you haven't been, please check it out. It's magical in an old forgotten Florida way.

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